Mural painted on a wall showing a person reading a book

Culture Forward (CF) aims to position the University of Birmingham at the heart of regional efforts to leverage culture for the regeneration and enhancement of the City of Birmingham following the success of the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Delivered by the College of Arts and Law (CAL) for the University, Culture Forward is a University of Birmingham initiative which is co-defined, co-owned, and co-delivered with partners across the City and region, making a contribution to the DCMS Cultural Compact and developing a pioneering HEI/ civic partnership framework which will establish Birmingham as a local, national, and international model for enterprising collaboration in this area and maximise the region’s cultural assets.

Civic engagement

The current University of Birmingham-funded pilot phase of CF could evolve into a larger, longer-term project pending its success. The pilot focuses on three main strands of activity, collaborating with existing strong partnerships, maximising efficiency, and working with UoB Cultural Assets. It aligns with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's First Folio and the Commonwealth Games legacy, coordinating with Birmingham City Council and Culture Central's plans. Culture Forward aims to strategically impact University of Birmingham's relationship with culture in the City and contribute to the health and development of Birmingham's cultural sector through its civic engagement, research strategy, and education strategy. The initiative has established 19 partnerships, received requests from additional potential partners, and positioned itself in key cultural forums. Despite current challenges, it remains actively engaged with Birmingham City Council and has contributed to significant cultural events, including the Eurocities Culture Forum.

Internal collaboration beyond CAL

Culture Forward has fostered internal collaboration beyond the College of Arts and Law (CAL), working closely with key stakeholders across the University. For example, CF has negotiated a major collaboration with the DPVC for Sustainability and Director of the Birmingham Institute for Sustainability and Climate Action to foment sustainability initiatives through culture.

Research and education strategy

In terms of research strategy, Culture Forward has supported applications and projects, including an application to the AHRC Creative Communities program and Drama and Theatre Art's Dr Claire French's Impact Accelerator Account project, focusing on British Muslim multilingualism in Birmingham. Additionally, Culture Forward organised a significant Sustainability Research Sandpit on December 1, 2023 at Birmingham Royal Ballet, bringing together various university departments and researchers, cultural organisations, and key stakeholders with a view to engendering a major City/ University cultural sustainability initiative/ grant application under the banner of Culture Forward. BCC portfolio folders Cllr Suleman and Symon Easton attended alongside, for example, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Rep, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Black Country Living Museum, Legacy West Midlands, Birmingham Royal Ballet.

CF is actively contributing to the development of the CAL plan for new education initiatives at University of Birmingham, including the new MA in Digital Media and Communications and a curriculum in Liberal Arts. Collaborating with Liberal Arts and Natural Science (LANS), CF participated in key events such as the LANS Civic Roundtable and the MRes in Interdisciplinary Study/ Medical Humanities programme. CF has also provided nine student internships for the Eurocities Culture Forum, supported the Barry Jackson Culture Forward MA Scholarship, and secured funding for various internships, including from Gareth Neame OBE of Carnival Films.